About The Production
Intolerable Cruelty has been in the works for nearly eight years. "Luckily," says screenwriter/director Joel Coen with regard to the age old subject of the battle of the sexes, "the material is timeless."
"Yes," agrees screenwriter/producer Ethan Coen, "I don't think the eight years made much of a difference."
The initial project had begun life quite separately from the Coens, who found the concept interesting and who gave it their signature once over.
"We originally did it as a writing job for Universal and it languished at the studio for a while," explains Joel about the long delay from page to screen. "Then it came back to us about a year ago and George Clooney expressed some interest in doing it. It was that combination that got us interested in directing it ourselves."
As for the story and the setting, "at face value it's a comedy about lawyers," explains Joel. "Los Angeles and the culture of L.A. and Beverly Hills are a significant part of the idea or the comedy."
"Like a lot of screwball comedies, it's about rich people," continues Ethan, "so not just in terms of photography but in terms of set dressing, wardrobe, every aspect, it's all very high-end."
The fact that it's a star-driven "Hollywood" comedy might be seen as somewhat of a departure for Joel and Ethan, whose previous work includes Palme d'Or-winning Barton Fink, the Academy
Award-winning dark comedy Fargo and the Academy Award- nominated O Brother, Where Art
But for Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, responsible for such comedy hits as
Parenthood, The Nutty Professor and Liar Liar, it represented an irresistible opportunity to put a slightly left-of-center spin on the kind of big, star-driven comedy he's done so successfully in the past.
Grazer explains, "Joel and Ethan are the coolest, purest filmmakers in modern movies. Here you have a romantic comedy with these mainstream movie stars. And then you add the Coens' irreverence—and it's their irreverence injected into this romance that makes the whole journey very sexy and very unpredictable."
"It's more of a 'glam' thing than certainly we've ever done before," adds Ethan.
"For us, it's trying something a little bit different but I wouldn't call it unique exactly," adds Joel.
Despite surface appearances, both Catherine Zeta-Jones (who stars as Marylin Rexroth) and Geoffrey Rush (who plays TV producer Donovan Donaly) see it as a film with a distinct Coen brothers' touch.
"There's a dark humor," comments Zeta-Jones. "They're masters of that and I think it's just inherent in their filmmaking and in their writing."
"With each film they make, they invite you to visit another planet," says Rush, "but you kind of know that each planet is in the Coen brothers solar system."
About this latest addition to their solar system, Rush continues, "You know in reading it that it's a fairly brilliantly constructed script, because they take you into the world hard at the beginning—it's laugh-out-loud funny on page two. Not many pieces of writing can do that."
The introduction of Hollywood glamour is not the only departure for Joel and Ethan on this project. Usually known for casting from a stable of returning actors, the circumstances of this script also dictated that the casting process be a bit out of the ordinary.
"In almost every other movie we've ever done, we've had particular actors in mind when we wrote the parts," explains Joel. "Since we didn't write this originally as something we were going to do ourselves, that wasn't the case here."
With the exception of George Clooney, Richard Jenkins and Billy Bob Thornton, the other actors are new to a Coen brothers' production. "That's actually been one of the pleasures of doing the movie," admits Joel. "It's been an oppo
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